Our politicians are well known for making unfulfilled promises – for lying to the electorate. But unfulfilled promises, lies can be deeply corrosive. Our country is today littered with so many unfulfilled promises and outright lies.
And Kabwe Chileya is right in telling Dr Dennis Wachinga, the Minister of Water, Sanitation and Environment, that residents of Ndola’s Mine Masala are tired of fake promises.
After touring Kafubu water sanitation projects in Masala, Dr Wachinga asked Chileya how she felt about the project but in response, she said: “Are we Zambians who are considered? Why should we live like we are not the people of Zambia? Why every time it’s fake promises? Us here, there is nothing to thank you sir. There is nothing, completely nothing. Yes, there are roads but there is nothing here for us. There is nothing to thank you for. You should listen to us the people when we tell you. Don’t force us to accept that there is anything good. It is us who are suffering. It’s us who feel the pain and anguish over the sewer. Since 2006 to date, we are still subjected to sewage spilling over our yields. This is very unhealthy for us.”
It is said that he loses his thanks who promises and delays. A promise made is a debt unpaid.
For every promise, there is price to pay.
Promises are like the full moon, if they are not kept at once, they diminish day by day.
At the outset of multiparty politics 27 years ago, Zambia’s leaders promised that the country’s rich natural resources would soon bring economic prosperity, and it appeared that multiparty democracy was beginning to take hold in this country. Close to three decades later, the economy is mired in widespread corruption. Individuals that flirted with multiparty democracy are now laying the foundation for corruption-based, authoritarian rule.
They say liars make the best promises. But sometimes the promises of our politicians become their problems.
Lie or lose? It seems deception has become a political survival technique in Zambia.
Most of us use the internet acronym LOL to mean “laugh out loud”. But in Zambian politics, it seems to stand for “lie or lose” – the public doesn’t like the truth, and those who flirt with telling it don’t seem to stand a chance in elections.
In our political discourse today, it seems there is no such thing as an outright lie. Instead, there’s distortion, exaggeration, misrepresentation, deception, half-truth and overstatement. The assumption is that the risk is worth it. Hubris and narcissism mean the consequences of a politician getting caught are outweighed – they think – by the benefits of telling voters what they want to hear. They know we seek support for our preconceived notions, and avoid information that challenges established views.
They seem convinced that Zambian voters have an almost infant-like response to lies, believing that if something isn’t true, it won’t be repeated. So the most effective political lies are repeated again and again. Say something often enough and people will begin believing it.
As our politics are centered on winning elections, lie or lose is a common theme. Look at the lies being repeated everyday about Hakainde Hichilema and the UPND! Look at the lies they were peddling everyday about Dr Fred M’membe and The Post – and now the Socialist Party! Look at the lies they are telling about Harry Kalaba everyday! Look at how they are depicting their former friend Chishimba Kambwili!
Deciphering, or even defining, a political lie doesn’t usually fall to a court. But now and again, the law makes an effort to help out. All aimed at undermining political opponents to win elections.
Should we be disappointed with these liars making false or fake promises? Yes. Should we be angry with them? Of course. Should we be surprised by their deception? No.
The primary role of the media, is to act as a lie detector, and that – more than courts – acts as a deterrent to politicians. Does it do that? Not always.
Benjamin Franklin warned, “Promises may fit the friends, but non-performance will turn them into enemies.” A Gaelic proverb says, “There is no greater fraud than a promise not kept.”
And Mohandas Gandhi said, “Breach of promise is a base surrender of truth.”